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Abordo v. State Department of Public Safety

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 10, 2019

CURTIS M. ABORDO, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF HAWAI‘I, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Defendant.

          ORDER (1) GRANTING APPLICATION TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF FEES OR COSTS; AND (2) DISMISSING COMPLAINT IN PART WITH PARTIAL LEAVE TO AMEND [1]

          Derrick K. Watson, United States District Judge.

         On March 13, 2019, Plaintiff Curtis M. Abordo, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint against the State of Hawai‘i Department of Public Safety (DPS), in which he appears to allege violations of certain constitutional rights by DPS. Dkt. No. 1. At the same time, Abordo filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP Application”).[2] Dkt. No. 2.

         I. Abordo's IFP Application

         Federal courts can authorize the commencement of any suit without prepayment of fees or security by a person who submits an affidavit that demonstrates an inability to pay. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). While Section 1915(a) does not require a litigant to demonstrate absolute destitution, Adkins v. E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948), the applicant must nonetheless show that he is “unable to pay such fees or give security therefor, ” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).

         Here, Abordo has made the required showing under Section 1915(a). In the IFP Application, Abordo states that he receives social security disability payments in the amount of $669.[3] Abordo further states that he does not receive any other income, he has no things of value, and has no money in a checking or savings account. Abordo also reports monthly expenses of $600 for rent.

         In light of these figures, it appears that Abordo's income falls below the poverty threshold identified by the Department of Health and Human Services' (“HHS”) 2019 Poverty Guidelines. See HHS Poverty Guidelines, available at: https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines. In addition, it appears that Abordo has no assets sufficient to provide security. As a result, the Court GRANTS the IFP Application, Dkt. No. 2.

         II. Screening of Abordo's Complaint

         The Court liberally construes a pro se Complaint. Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987). However, the Court cannot act as counsel for a pro se litigant or supply the essential elements of a claim. Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004); Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

         In the Complaint, one factual source appears to provide the basis for all of Abordo's claims. More specifically, Abordo alleges that, in 2014, he completed serving a period of probation. Despite this, he alleges that, on March 11, 2017, DPS illegally arrested him for violating the probation that he had fully served. Due to that alleged event, Abordo appears to allege that various constitutional rights were violated. The Court addresses those claims below to the extent they can be discerned.[4]

         1. Fourth Amendment

         The Complaint alleges that Abordo was falsely imprisoned and unlawfully detained. A claim for false imprisonment and/or false arrest, ordinarily, falls under the Fourth Amendment. See Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (applying Fourth Amendment principles to claims of false arrest and false imprisonment). “For both false arrest and false imprisonment, the essential elements are (1) the detention or restraint of one against his will, and (2) the unlawfulness of such detention or restraint.” Reed v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 873 P.2d 98, 109 (Haw. 1994) (quotation, internal quotation, and alteration omitted). The existence of probable cause to arrest, though, is a defense to any such claim. Id.; Fayer, 649 F.3d at 1064-65. “Probable cause exists when the facts and circumstances within one's knowledge and of which one has reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe that an offense has been committed. This requires more than a mere suspicion but less than a certainty.” State v. Maganis, 123 P.3d 679, 681 (Haw. 2005) (quotation and emphasis omitted); see also Fayer, 649 F.3d at 1064.

         Here, the Complaint appears to allege a Fourth Amendment violation. In Hawai‘i, “[u]pon the termination of the period of the probation or the earlier discharge of the defendant, the defendant shall be relieved of any obligations imposed by the order of the court and shall have satisfied the disposition of the court….” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 706-630. Abordo alleges that he was arrested for violating his probation, even though he had “fully served” his probation at the time. Thus, at the time of arrest, there was no probable cause that Abordo had violated his probation, assuming the truth of the allegations.

         The Court acknowledges that the factual allegations in the Complaint are sparse, and there very likely is more to the story than that which is contained within the four corners of the Complaint.[5] Nonetheless, for present purposes, the Complaint alleges a plausible claim of false arrest/false imprisonment and, despite the paucity of facts, puts DPS on notice of a Fourth Amendment claim. As a result, for screening purposes, the Court does not dismiss this claim.

         2. Fi ...


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